I was at my local record store this summer, perusing the racks, when I looked up to the shelves above, where the higher-priced LPs sit. There sat a copy of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s debut, Fever to Tell, at which I stared, wondering. Am I this much of a record collector?
Maybe next time, I decided.
Something about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs inspires grand declarations. I’ve declared “Maps” the greatest love song of my lifetime, and referred to Karen O as “the last great rock star” for years, until Ritzy Bryan of the Joy Formidable came onto my radar. An ironic phenomenon for a post-punk band with an ever-shifting aesthetic to inspire.
Years ago, I stood in the Bumbershoot crowd, waiting for Karen O & Co. to take the stage. Already, the early afternoon time slot felt like an abomination, as though Karen O’s mere existence in a sunlight space ran counter to all I knew about her. Beside me as I waited, a pair of teenage girls in Abercrombie hoodies, discussing how they couldn’t wait to see Jason Mraz that night. Another offense to good taste. One must pick a side in the culture wars.
Later, most of the way through the set, the trio abandoned their instruments in favor of a single acoustic guitar. “Maps,” as I’d never heard it before, and never wanted to. A song defined by its warbling electric guitar and perfect hollow drum tone, reduced to a strummed sing-along.
Somewhere in the crowd, those two teenagers were surely thrilled. I sang along, too, begrudgingly.
“Wait, they don’t love you like I love you…”
The funny thing about Fever to Tell is that my two favorite tracks, “Maps” and “Y Control,” appear on the album in that order. But I always listen to them flipped around.
Perfection is a subjective phenomenon.
Friday night, I sat in a friend’s basement, scanning through a 15,000-song karaoke track list, looking for another song to sing. Near the bottom, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I thought about singing, but didn’t want to wait.
Maybe next time.